Bad, lazy or greedy attorneys fail to warn clients about the problems they could face in bankruptcy.

bankruptcy

People in financial distress look to attorneys for help and guidance.  They assume their attorneys care more about them than about the attorney’s bank account. There are several basic ethical rules governing attorneys, such as:

  • An attorney is ethically required to have the skill and knowledge in order to offer good advice to their clients.
  • Attorneys should not accept more clients than they can efficiently and professionally assist.  Many law firms that mass-produce bankruptcies treat their clients like cattle – herding them into a holding pen for slaughter, with little regard about the legal consequences to those clients (losing their home, tax refunds, or inheritance, to name a few problems).
  • An attorney has an obligation to treat their clients with respect, and
  • An attorney it required to honor the rules of the legal system.
  • plus many more – see A Lawyer’s Creed of Professionalism

The United States Trustee, the trustees, and their attorneys

What is the United States Trustee Program:  Office of the US Trustee The United States Trustee Program is a component of the Justice Department that works to ensure the integrity of the bankruptcy system across the nation.

The duties of United States Trustees include:

  • Appointing and supervising the private trustees who collect and disburse funds to creditors in bankruptcy cases under Chapters 7, 12, and 13;
  • Assuring compliance with the Bankruptcy Code with respect to information disseminated in cases through reports, schedules, disclosure statements, reorganization plans, and other filings.
  • Reviewing fee applications of professionals, like attorneys and accountants, who serve in Chapter 11 business reorganization cases; and
  • Monitoring bankruptcy cases for fraud and abuse, and referring criminal matters to U.S. Attorneys for prosecution in accordance with the USTP Mission Statement.

In other words, a primary purpose of the US Trustee’s Office is to police the bankruptcy system. There are guidelines governing chapter 7 trustee behavior (Handbook for Chapter 7 Trustees).  As with all humans, some people are more aggressive than others.  Some are more focused on personal financial gain then altruistic benefit to society.  Therefore, some of the more aggressive chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees and/or their attorney view debtors as walking cash registers (see post – Every client deserves competent advice….)  Wonder how much are Arizona chapter 7 trustees and their attorneys paid – see Professional Fee Report.

As the police of the bankruptcy system, the US Trustee’s Office is on the lookout for bad actors, such as bad debtors or bad attorneys.  I don’t have any experience about the policing of bad debtors (other than to read articles or cases depicting some outrageous and really stupid behavior).  But, unfortunately, I do have experience of with some bad attorneys.  Please understand that the legal process is designed to be slow.  Typically, there must be repeat offenses in order for the police to pay attention.  The same is true when taking action to curb bad lawyers – there must be repeat offenses.  The bad news is that innocent people continue to be harmed by the behavior of bad attorneys, at least until the police complete their investigations and the court finishes its process.  That is how the system is designed.

“A Bankruptcy Christmas”

For a very insightful expose’ on how bad this process has become – watch Stephen Berken‘s YouTube presentation “A Bankruptcy Christmas“.  He is not afraid to call a turd a turd.

MUSINGS FROM DIANE:

bankruptcyThe bankruptcy system was designed to help honest individuals and businesses get a fresh start.  That fresh start comes in many flavors – depending on the debtors and their goals.  Unfortunately, not all the players in the bankruptcy system put a fresh start for honest debtor as their priority.  Instead, their pocketbooks are their priority.  One conclusion is that the process is broken, but it is not.  There are committed attorneys in the US Trustee’s office spending months, if not years, pursuing bad debtors or bad attorneys.  There are good trustees and trustee attorneys who are conservative in how they treat a debtor.  So, again, the system is not broken, but it takes those in the trenches (like my fellow bankruptcy attorneys) being willing to say “enough is enough”.
A good debtor’s attorney should look out for their client, which includes helping their client avoid obvious problems. When a good debtor attorney sees a bad attorney the system should not rely on the good debtor’s attorney to bring an action against a bad attorney who is abusing their own clients. But, in 2019 that was dropped in my lap.  The chapter 13 trustee and US Trustee said they just “thought this young attorney was sloppy”.  I had to take months, now years, of my time to bring the spotlight on the bad attorney.  Others started to pay attention once I exposed the terrors this attorney suffered on his clients, but this cost me dearly because I was unavailable to help other honest debtors.  Plus, I don’t get paid for this work, at least not in cash, but only in knowing that I stood up to a bad guy.
2/2021 – UPDATE: A few other attorneys have taken on this same bad attorney, a wonderful attorney at the US Trustee’s office is spending enormous amount of time exposing this bad attorney, lots of hearings have and continue to be held, there are state bar complaints, and public reviews.  So finally, this young, self-centered attorney is being publicly exposed.  Yet he still advises clients and files cases, but hopefully the Arizona State Bar will disbar him and/or the Bankruptcy Court will bar him from filing bankruptcy cases.
Sorry for the whining :-(